The leader of the new Cook Islands United Party, former deputy prime minister Teariki Heather, says he wants to give the country a serious future alternative to the Cook Islands Party and the Demos.
The former deputy prime minister says CIUP will launch their political campaign on November 24 at 6pm at the Arorangi sports clubhouse.
The party’s banner features a rainbow, which Heather says is symbolic of God’s covenant of love. “That is what the party is founded on.”
It also has 15 stars, which he says represent all of the Cook Islands.
“We will “never forget those islands, north or south.”
The party’s goal Heather says, is to “give hope to our people,” and finally bring about political reform and minimise the costs of government, with fewer MPs.
Heather says the costs of running the country are continuing to escalate. And having a number of years’ business experience as chief executive of long-established contractors T&M Heather, he says he wants to build a stronger economy by being mindful of the country’s spending.
“Our people had a tough time in the’96 recession and I don’t want to see us go through something like that again. That’s one of the most important issues for me.”
Following his exit from politics and the CIP party at the general election in June, Heather says he was content to go back to his construction business and spend more time with family.
Since then however, he has been approached by various “politically disheartened” members of the local community and the Pa Enua, asking him to step up and form his own party.
And it’s not the first time he has attempted to launch a new political party.
Following a stint as the first mayor of Puaikura in 1998 and at the urging of his parents, Heather launched the Cook Islands National Party, with the aim of achieving political reform, including a shorter Parliamentary term. The party disbanded after just 11 months.
At the time he says he felt he was alone “on the fence” between the Democratic Party and the CIP.
He then joined the CIP under Geoffrey Henry as a junior MP. He was appointed to Cabinet in December 2010 after the Cook Islands Party won the 2010 election and served as Minister of Infrastructure & Planning and Justice.
In December 2013, he was appointed deputy prime minister, filling the vacancy created by the resignation of Tom Marsters. He lost his seat in this year’s general election on June 14, with Nooroa o Teariki Baker taking his seat in parliament.
Former minister of Health, Nandi Glassie and former MPs Moana Ioane, and Tau Isamaela have joined with Heather after also being defeated in the election.
Heather says he was not disheartened with the CIP, but since leaving the party had been approached to form an alternative to the “status quo”. He has since brought together similarly-minded politicians in their aim of having 24 candidates contesting the next election in four years’ time
He says he doesn’t necessarily have aspirations to become leader of the country, and it’s not key to forming the party just yet. However, he says, “I have to lead as there is no one else stepping up... I’ve faced the challenge before and I’ll face it again, whether successful or not.”
He adds that people may say, “Oh you may have a new party, but are they capable of running the country?”
“And the answer to this is yes. We’ve been there, we’ve done that.”
He says the party will be a serious contender by the time of the next general election in 2022 or any other by-election in the meantime
“The country has prospered and I would like to keep that going.”
Heather says he was content where he was in life but didn’t want to be what the Mangaians call “Aringa me kare atika”.
The phrase means in English, “I should have done something.”
– Chris Taylor
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